The church in England where Matt Redman worshipped was struggling and declining. They had lost the focus of worship. The pastor removed the sound system and stopped using the band. The congregation went back to basics, singing a cappella and praying.
As the congregation began to refocus on the true object of worship instead of their various likes and dislikes of worship elements, the church began to experience revival. In 1999, Redman reflected upon what had happened and wrote the simple lyrics: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, Jesus” (The Heart of Worship).
In 1819, George Atkins wrote “Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God,” as the first line of Brethren, We Have Met to Worship that was set to music in 1825. This occurred during the Second Great Awakening.
David wrote Psalm 92 somewhere between 1010 B.C. and 970 B.C. This psalm was written as a song of praise to God to be used on the Sabbath as a part of corporate worship.
A contemporary song, a traditional hymn and an ancient psalm all have at their core the same focal point and central truth: The purpose of a worship service is to praise and celebrate the great and mighty God who creates us, redeems us and sustains us.
David understood the role of God in the life of Israel and in his own life. He celebrated God through music. In Psalm 92:1, he praises God with his voice in song, and in Psalm 92:3, he praises God with instrumental music. Regardless of how the music was presented, to David the music was always about giving God praise and celebrating who he is.
Even as believers and followers of the one true God, we still have distinctions and variation in how we worship. I grew up in a church that was very formal. Being quiet was considered being reverent. It was how we celebrated God. The music was stately. Today, I attend a church where conversations fill the auditorium as people gather. The music has more movement in its score.
An early memory verse I learned as a child was “But the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). David’s words do not encourage silence. He writes, “I will shout for joy because of the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4). Silence and shouting are both biblical ways to celebrate God in worship.
For thought: When we gather for worship, where is our focus? Do you think about the greatness of God and lift your voice in song to praise him? Or do you keep your mouth closed, ignore the music and wait for the real part of the service to commence?
For thought unplugged: Many churches have experienced what has been named the “worship wars” over the use of traditional or contemporary music. My personal taste in music is very eclectic. I like the traditional, the contemporary and the ancient. In 1010 B.C., Psalm 92 was contemporary. In fact, all music first was written and performed as contemporary. The passing of time has allowed the contemporary to become familiar and thus traditional.
Leo Tolstoy said, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” Martin Luther stated: “Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Music, as an element of worship, is the opportunity for the worshipper to express his or her emotions of thanks and praise to God for all he is doing and is capable of doing within the believer’s life. William P. Merrill wrote, “There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.”
In the second section of this psalm of praise, David focused on reasons to be in awe of God. Psalm 92:5 speaks of both the works of God and of his thoughts. Isaiah recorded the words of God to help us understand why we should worship the Lord: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
It was during the 1957 Billy Graham Crusade in New York City that the crusade choir introduced a Swedish hymn written in 1886 by 25-year-old pastor Carl Boberg. The hymn had been sung in Europe and Russia but became known worldwide after the 1957 performance. Today, almost all believers sing praise to God as they voice the words: “How great Thou art” (How Great Thou Art). Each verse of this great hymn focuses on works only God can do.
David concludes Psalm 92 with a listing of benefits that come to those who truly worship. He reminds us of the strength God gives to those who worship him (v. 10); he acknowledges that those standing in opposition to God’s followers eventually perish (v. 11); and he affirms the growth of the righteous and states they will bear fruit (vv. 12-14). He concludes in Psalm 92:15 with a great proclamation that God is a rock who does not waiver or falter.
For thought: When you join with others to worship this week, who will you truly worship, how will you worship and why will you be worshipping?